Looking back, it's funny when you wake up and realize that it's 0745h, the time you were supposed to be boarding a bus in Fort William towards Glasgow. I had hoped to make it to Belfast today. But I was still in my bed at "Chase the Wild Goose" hostel in the suburb of Banavie. Shit. I must have been exhausted and slept through my watch alarm. I can't remember ever missing a bus, train or plane due to oversleeping but I guess there's a first time for everything. I gathered my stuff quickly and then darted out the door heading for the local bus stop. This was a small town so of course there was no local bus and I had to wait about twenty minutes for one to show up. Not sure what I was thinking, but I made it into Fort William and at the bus station realized that the next bus was only in a few hours and, consequently, was already fully booked. I walked to a busy road and tried to hitchhike for a ride but wasn't lucky. I resigned myself to the fact that I would try again tomorrow, and maybe wake up on time.
I went back to my hostel and booked another night. Somehow I wasn't all that bothered by all of this. The Scottish weather was surprisingly warm and sunny, and I didn't want the day to go to waste so I said the hell with it, and packed up my day pack with supplies. I was going to climb Ben Nevis! Ben Nevis is 1346 meters and is the highest Munro in Great Britain. Although many people make the climb every year, there are still fatalities and rescues that must be attempted mainly due to the temperamental weather. I had learned all too well how quickly it could change and was prepared with plenty of layers. I walked to the Glen Nevis visitor center which was about and hour and fifteen minutes from Banavie. By this point I was warmed up. My left ankle was still bothering me at times from the injury I suffered doing the West Highland Way, but it felt good enough for the summit attempt. One of the ladies working in the visitor center warned me that there was still one to two meters of snow on the peak. I would see how far I could get.
I walked the gentle path up from Glen Nevis and passed farms with multitudes of sheep grazing. Then I walked along the mountain base as hopped along the rocks as the path climbed higher. It was really nice outside and plenty of people were out along the path. I was starting quite late in comparison but I knew I was pretty fast on the ascents. The views were getting clearer and clearer. Ben Nevis is connected with another smaller Munro and a lake sits in between. It seemed pretty odd to see this lake sitting there so high above sea level, nestled between two mountains. The path climbed higher past some waterfalls. Then it got a little steeper but continued in predictable zig-zag pattern. The winds picked up at the top but they were still warm. At about 1100m I hit my first area of snow. It was easy to slip if one lost concentration, but there wasn't any need for specialized equipment like crampons. I climbed through more and more snow and there were points that my foot did sink a bit. It was cumulative, but my shoes were getting quite wet after a while. There were two
more sections that became steep with snow. I followed the cairns all the way to the top. The view was stunning! I saw countless Munros in the distance and saw the entirety of Fort William. I met a few other travelers at the top but most people who had made the ascent today were already on their way down. I would be joining them soon. I figured Belfast could wait, but a day like this on top of Great Britain doesn't come often, especially with such temperamental weather in this region.
The descent back down was easy enough, except when my shoes got drenched when the path crossed back through a waterfall. Then at the base I took a little break eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I walked back to Banavie from there as the sun was dipping. In total I did about seven hours of walking. I knew my left ankle would not be forgiving me. This turned out to be an unexpected day, but I have to agree that I made the most of it. That night I met some Scottish roofers who were staying in my dorm room. I couldn't understand anything they said since
their accent was one of the thickest I've ever heard. I let them know that I was going to be getting up early the next day. Although I loved my current hostel, it was time to get out of Fort William for good and move on!
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